The Texas Public Safety Commission (PSC) and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw presented two Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Awards, three Medals of Valor, two Director’s Citations and 14 Lifesaving Awards to department personnel at the PSC meeting held on Thursday, Dec. 10, at the Criminal Law Enforcement Auditorium at DPS Headquarters in Austin. In addition, 14 Director’s Awards were also presented to partner agency personnel and private citizens at the meeting.
“I’m proud to recognize the men and women of DPS, local and federal law enforcement and the public for their outstanding achievements and selfless service to their communities,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “They exhibited excellence, dedication and valor in their actions, and it was an honor to present them their much deserved awards.”
The following individuals were recognized:
Rebecca Butler, Intelligence and Counterterrorism (ICT) — Austin, and Retired Sgt. Stephen Bynum, Highway Patrol — Lampasas, each received the Adolph Thomas Distinguished Service Award, which is given annually to one commissioned and one non-commissioned employee. First awarded in 2018, this award is named after Adolph Thomas who was the first Black DPS Trooper. Thomas worked in the Texas Highway Patrol, Narcotics, served as Commander of the Training Academy and retired as Chief of Staff Services. Thomas excelled in the areas of mentoring fellow employees, training others and civic engagement. This award was created to honor DPS employees who display excellence and distinguish themselves in those same three areas.
Rebecca Butler serves as a criminal intelligence analyst. In her position, she provides analytical and investigative support for all DPS divisions, as well as other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Butler goes above-and-beyond to locate, gather and disseminate valuable information, as well as provide vital training to other analysts, DPS personnel and other law enforcement partners. She has been instrumental in the development and instruction of curriculum for the Interdiction for the Protection of Children (IPC) program. Additionally, Butler created a process of collecting and combining tactical analysis with strategic analysis and intelligence, which enhances the quality and effectiveness of information provided to investigators. Butler is a dedicated and compassionate employee whose work has resulted in the identification, apprehension and successful prosecution of criminals.
Stephen Bynum recently retired as a sergeant with the Texas Highway Patrol. In his 34 years with DPS, he served as mentor and advisor to countless peers and law enforcement partners. He was one of the department’s authorities on the Texas Transportation Code and developed training materials at the request of the Texas Highway Patrol Chief. Bynum also assisted the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement with rewriting questions for the state peace officer’s licensing exam. He was also a highly respected instructor for DPS’ recruit school. In addition, he is a pillar of his community, serving as a Sunday school teacher and song leader.
Trooper Mauro Arce, Highway Patrol — Texas City, Sgt. Earl Vicknair, Highway Patrol — Angleton, and Trooper Steven Yaden, Highway Patrol — Angleton, each received the Medal of Valor. This is the highest honor and award bestowed by DPS. On May 18, 2018, a Santa Fe High student opened fire on teachers and students. Vicknair, Arce and Yaden were among the first law enforcement officers to arrive on the scene. Along with other officers, they cornered the shooter. Vicknair drew fire from him, and Yaden fired upon the shooter while Arce provided cover. Together, they caused the shooter to surrender. Risking their own lives for the safety of others, they helped ensure no further harm came to any students or faculty.
Trooper Brian Barnes, Highway Patrol — Nacogdoches, received a Director’s Citation, and Darrell Lunsford Jr. received a Director’s Award. On March 10, 2020, Trooper Brian Barnes witnessed a major crash in which a vehicle attempted to make a U-turn in front of a motorcycle on U.S. 59 in Nacogdoches County. The motorcycle became partially lodged inside the vehicle, with the motorcyclist landing on the vehicle’s roof and the driver not breathing. Barnes, along with Lunsford (a citizen who arrived on the scene to help), repositioned the motorcyclist to administer chest compressions. While giving chest compressions, Barnes continued providing instructions to bystanders on traffic control and how to provide medical assistance to others involved in the crash. The motorcyclist was taken by EMS personnel to a hospital with a pulse but later died from his injuries.
Special Agent Joshua Roraback, Criminal Investigations Division — Tyler, received a Director’s Citation; Analyst Daniel Frison, Analyst Justin Major, Special Agent Josh Mathews and Special Agent Joseph Valero, all of the FBI, received Director’s Awards; and Nathaniel Kummerfeld, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District of Texas, also received a Director’s Award, for their efforts beginning in 2018. Roraback was contacted by a local police agency regarding a minor who had been sexually assaulted and trafficked. After the investigation stalled, Roraback continued on his own, enlisting the help of Valero and Mathews. Major and Frison assisted with analyzing and examining electronic evidence. A registered sex offender was identified as a suspect, and Kummerfeld provided guidance and strategy to successfully prosecute the suspect. Through the diligence and dedication of Roraback, Valero, Mathews, Major and Frison, at least 25 additional victims were identified. The suspect maintained several online personas, which were linked to the suspect through interviews with victims and the suspect’s family members, executing search warrants and compiling electronic data. The suspect was ultimately sentenced to 70 years on 75 counts.
Trooper Steven Creader, Highway Patrol — Nederland, Trooper Jordan Pulliam, Highway Patrol — Beaumont, and former Trooper William Allday, previously Highway Patrol — Beaumont, each received a Lifesaving Award; and Deputy Brittany Nguyen, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, received a Director’s Award for their actions on May 7, 2020. Pulliam and Allday responded to a crash on U.S. 69 in Jefferson County where a vehicle was pinned against the center dividing wall with an unresponsive female inside. The pair pulled the woman from the vehicle and began CPR. Nguyen arrived, and Pulliam saw items in the vehicle that led officers to believe the woman was suffering from a drug overdose. Nguyen administered a dose of Naloxone, while Pulliam and Allday continued chest compressions. Creader arrived on scene, ensured the vehicle was stationary and began helping with chest compressions, while Pulliam administered an additional dose of Naloxone. When EMS arrived, the woman was taken to the hospital and stated she was alive due to the lifesaving measures conducted at the scene.
Trooper Micah Goodrich, Highway Patrol — Panhandle, received a Lifesaving Award; Ranger Samuel Sidders, National Park Service, received a Director’s Award; and citizens John May, Dakota Morris, Austin Savage and Craig Shackleford, each received a Director’s Award for their actions on Oct. 3, 2019, in Carson County. Pamela Peterson was also posthumously honored with a Director’s Award. A severe thunderstorm caused flash flooding that day. The vehicle that Linda Conley and Pamela Peterson were traveling in on State Highway 107 hydroplaned, landed in a ditch and became submerged in approximately three feet of water. Peterson was still strapped in her seat belt, and with the position the vehicle landed in, Peterson was above Conley who was under water. Peterson held Conley’s head above water before she lost consciousness. Sidders was off-duty at the time and spotted the vehicle; he notified emergency personnel and tried to rescue the women. He broke a window so he could reach Conley. Sidders supported her head and ensured she could breathe. May arrived on scene and attempted to get the vehicle upright but was unable to do so. Goodrich arrived, followed immediately by Savage, Morris and Shackleford. Together, they fought the weight of the rushing water to turn the vehicle upright. Goodrich attempted to assist Peterson, but she didn’t survive.
Maj. James “Jim” Rohrman, Aircraft Operations Division — San Antonio, and Lt. Cody Klaehn, Aircraft Operations Division — Austin, both received a Lifesaving Award, and Game Warden Tyler Stoikes, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, received a Director’s Award for their actions on June 22, 2020. The trio was conducting training in the Dallas area when they received a call to help a man stranded at the top of a flag pole 165 feet above the ground. The man had been there more than four hours; he was suffering from a medical emergency and his primary climbing gear had failed. Area fire trucks were unable to reach him. Rohrman, Klaehn and Stoikes flew to the area and determined the victim was secured only by his secondary tether, about 25 feet from the top of the pole. Rohrman piloted the aircraft into position, while Klaehn lowered Stoikes from the aircraft. Stoikes secured the victim in the rescue apparatus and cut the secondary tether. Klaehn hoisted them back into the aircraft, and the man was taken to safety. He has since made a full recovery.
Trooper Osvaldo Anzaldua, Highway Patrol — Palmview, and Trooper Alejandra Salinas, Highway Patrol — Rio Grande City, each received a Lifesaving Award for their actions on Feb. 26, 2020. They responded to a house in La Grulla for a disturbance involving weapons. La Grulla Police were already on scene when officers heard multiple gunshots inside the house. As officers went inside, they found a female with 16 gunshot wounds, and a man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. After arriving, Anzaldua and Salinas entered the house and immediately administered first aid to the woman. Anzaldua directed the other officers to provide medical attention. Anzaldua applied a pressure bandage to the woman’s abdomen, while Salinas applied a tourniquet to her arm. EMS arrived and took her to the hospital.
Trooper Ramiro Brito Jr., Highway Patrol — Capitol, and Trooper Kenneth Pittman, Highway Patrol — Capitol, each received a Lifesaving Award for their actions on Feb. 14, 2020. The pair was having lunch with their fellow Troopers in the State Capitol Complex when one of the Troopers began to choke. Pittman noticed her choking and began the Heimlich maneuver. Brito is a certified emergency care attendant and took over for Pittman and performed the Heimlich maneuver. After about 45 seconds, the item became dislodged, and the Trooper was able to breathe normally again.
Trooper Christopher Hill, Highway Patrol — The Woodlands, received a Lifesaving Award for his actions on Oct. 19, 2019. Hill heard a dispatch from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to a nearby location and proceeded to assist. When he arrived, he found a truck with the passenger door open and an unconscious woman in the passenger seat. He and another citizen moved the woman to the ground and checked for a pulse. She had no pulse and wasn’t breathing. Hill began CPR until she began to breathe on her own. EMS arrived and took over treatment.
Trooper Allen Licon, Highway Patrol — Conroe, received a Lifesaving Award for his actions on Jan. 24, 2020. Licon was pursuing a motorcyclist on State Loop 336 in Conroe who was exceeding speeds of 100 mph. The driver lost control in a curve, crashed into a guard rail and was ejected from the bike. This caused the motorcyclist’s leg to be severed. Licon rushed to the subject and tried to keep him calm. An off-duty EMS worker arrived and gave Licon a tourniquet, which he applied. His actions saved the motorcyclist’s life, according to medical personnel who later treated the motorcyclist.
Trooper Joseph Osborne, Highway Patrol — Capitol, received a Lifesaving Award for his actions on Jan. 22, 2019. He was driving on State Highway 45 in Austin when he spotted a person who had been hit by a vehicle while changing a flat tire. The victim suffered two broken femurs and was bleeding profusely. Osborne got a tourniquet from his medical kit and applied it to one of the victim’s legs. Several other law enforcement personnel arrived at the scene and assisted in treating the victim’s injuries and with traffic control. In all, three tourniquets were applied to the victim, which ultimately stopped the blood loss and saved his life.
Trooper Benjamin Stopyra, Highway Patrol — El Paso, received a Lifesaving Award for his actions on Aug. 3, 2019. That day, he responded to an active shooter at the Cielo Vista Mall and Walmart in El Paso, equipping himself with his tactical gear. Stopyra and other officers were told the shooter was at a department store at the mall. After clearing the store and ensuring the safety of those inside, he rushed over to the Walmart. When Stopyra went inside, he asked to be directed to the triage area, where the injured were being treated. Stopyra went to the triage area and found a woman who was losing blood. A tourniquet had been applied incorrectly to the woman. Stopyra took action and applied his own tourniquet on her leg, which instantly stopped the bleeding. He then continued to help other injured victims.
* Award recipients — Daniel Frison, Justin Major, William Allday, Brittany Nguyen, Samuel Sidders, John May, Dakota Morris, Austin Savage and Craig Shackleford — were not in attendance at Thursday’s meeting but were recognized for their efforts.